If you’re looking to purchase an NFA item, such as a suppressor, an SBR, or a pre-ban fully automatic rifle, you may be unsure about whether to seek your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) or obtain an NFA gun trust. Working with your CLEO doesn’t require an upfront investment, but is it your best option? An NFA gun trust can offer benefits that can make your purchase easier and faster, while also protecting your NFA assets.

Trust Flexibility

An NFA gun trust will free you to designate multiple individuals as co-trustees. Being able to name a person in your trust as a co-trustee will allow that person access to your NFA item (with your permission) without violating any laws. This not only relieves you of some liability, but also allows others to use these items legally. This is not an option through a CLEO signature because in that program the legal owner of the NFA item must be present whenever it is being used.

Additionally, the “trust” is the legal owner of the NFA item, so no CLEO signatures, fingerprints, and photographs are required. This saves you time and money in the long run because each CLEO application will require two signatures, two fingerprint cards, and two passport photos. Under the CLEO system, the money spent, the appointments made, and the shuffling between offices will be costs that outweigh the benefits of NFA-item ownership.


An NFA trust lets you designate beneficiaries, too. Beneficiaries of your trust will be able to inherit your NFA items without having to reapply for ownership. This not only saves money ($200/per item), but will also keep your items from going through probate. Protecting these assets is important for you and your beneficiaries. The NFA gun trust will also protect you should you become legally incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions. The trust will be structured to handle such a situation.

VRA Assistance

At VRA we offer a service in which a customer can submit a copy of an NFA trust to keep on file with us. Should that customer then decide to purchase an NFA item, we will then prepare all paperwork, print a copy of the trust, and send it to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). This will streamline the process and make it as simple as buying a handgun. The wait time on NFA items can vary, but trust applications usually are complete within 4–5 months, whereas CLEO applications take 6–7 months. Again, another reason to consider a trust.

Another advantage of an NFA trust is the ability to submit ATF Form 1 online using ATF eForms. (Online submission of ATF Form 4 is anticipated to be available again sometime soon.) When both forms were available online, VRA was able to submit applications in a matter of minutes. Approval times for these forms were 2–3 months, and the amount of paperwork was minimal. CLEO applications cannot be submitted online. The ATF also has been doing a great job of reducing their mail-in processing times, and eForms looks to be a good tool for future transactions.

VRA Commitment

At VRA, providing firearm education is a vital part of our business, and we hope this information about NFA gun trusts is beneficial. Whether you decide to get a trust or go through your local CLEO, VRA will be happy to help you obtain your NFA item. We believe the trust is most efficient and protects your rights and assets. If you are interested in obtaining an NFA item and would like more information, as well as our referrals for obtaining an NFA trust, please contact us at 937.387.0485, or email Alex Hague at alex@vra-ohio.com.